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Unused and expired medications may be disposed of properly Saturday

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JOHNSON CITY – An opportunity for area residents to clear their medicine cabinets and drawers of potentially dangerous expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs – and dispose of them safely – is offered this Saturday, April 26, through National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., such drugs will be collected at five collection sites throughout the Tri-Cities: the Johnson City Police Department, the Jonesborough Fire Department, the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in Blountville, and the Bristol (Tennessee) Police Department.  The service is free and anonymous; no questions will be asked.

This local effort is a partnership between East Tennessee State University’s Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse research team, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), local law enforcement and two anti-drug coalitions.  This is the eighth such opportunity in the last three years that has been offered through this initiative, and last October, Americans turned in 324 tons – over 647,000 pounds – of prescription drugs at over 4,114 sites.

The Tri-Cities event is unique in that more than 25 student pharmacists and faculty from ETSU’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy will be available to assist patients with their medication and storage questions.  In addition, analysis of the types of medications donated will help in planning future “take-back” events and informing legislative actions at the state and federal levels.

“Many donors acknowledge that it has been far too long since they last reviewed their prescription inventories or considered safe storage practices,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gray, assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice in the Gatton College of Pharmacy.  “Removing unwanted or expired medications from our home medicine cabinets reduces potential mishaps and drug diversion.  A notable mishap is the accidental poisoning of children or unintended diversion to young adults.”

Gray says rates of prescription drug abuse, as well as the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs, are high in the U.S.  He said that studies show a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Gray also noted that common methods of disposing of unused medicines, including flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, both pose potential safety and health hazards.

“We encourage residents to filter their prescription and non-prescription medications for expired or unwanted containers,” Gray said.  “Bring those medications in their original containers to the drop-off for safe and environmentally friendly disposal.”

To learn more, visit the DEA website at www.justice.gov/dea/index.shtml.  For more information, contact Gray at (423) 439-6782.